Advertisement

Call it a Nightengale

Winning rebounding battle makes world of difference for Jayhawks

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) powers in a dunk against Purdue guard Carsen Edwards (3) and Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) powers in a dunk against Purdue guard Carsen Edwards (3) and Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) during the second half, Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Kansas City, Mo. — In the first half of Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup at Sprint Center, everything was going to plan for Purdue except in one spot.

Kansas had an edge in rebounding, which led to an edge on the scoreboard.

It didn’t matter that the Boilermakers were shooting the ball well and forcing the Jayhawks into some tough shots. The Jayhawks kept scoring off of their own misses until they eventually stopped missing in a 98-66 victory to advance to the Elite Eight.

Purdue’s trio of big men, 6-foot-9 Caleb Swanigan, 6-8 Vincent Edwards and 7-2 Isaac Haas, combined for 37 points and 13 rebounds — a big drop from their output of 55 points and 25 rebounds against Iowa State in the second round.

The Jayhawks out-rebounded the much taller Purdue, 36-29. Freshman Josh Jackson had a game-high 12 boards (four offensive).

“Those guys, especially Caleb on the glass, it's hard to keep 'em off,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “If you look at Landen (Lucas’) stats he only got four rebounds, but the story is Caleb only got seven. And if you had told this before the game that would be the give and take I would have sold out for that because he does a really good job of making sure neither one of them got it for the most part.”

Swanigan’s seven rebounds were his second-lowest total this season — and only the seventh game he failed to record a double-double.

Kansas senior point guard Frank Mason III had seven rebounds (two offensive), matching Swanigan on the glass. Reserve forward Carlton Bragg Jr., snagged six boards (two offensive) in 10 minutes, while Lucas added four (two offensive) and Dwight Coleby had one defensive rebound.

“I would say if you look at the threes that were taken, 55 3's were taken in the game, so it ends up being longer rebounds and a lot of times it's being quick to the basketball and opportunistic,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said.

Off of 12 offensive rebounds, the Jayhawks scored 16 second-chance points, their most since an overtime, home loss to Iowa State on Feb. 4.

KU has won the rebounding battle in seven of its last eight games, the only exception being a Big 12 Tournament loss to TCU without Josh Jackson available because of a one-game suspension.

“Our defense and rebounding and everything was good the second half,” Self said, “and, of course, we made a ton of shots and that always helped.

“Obviously, Dwight bought us a ton of minutes whenever Landen was in foul trouble. But I thought Carlton came in and did a good job, too. You add those guys together you get 23 key minutes out of that position when Landen can't be in the game. So I think they both kind of bailed us out.”

Entering Thursday, the Boilermakers (27-8) had a 6-4 record when they were out-rebounded by an opponent.

“We've been able to dominate the boards in our first two games and (Kansas) did a good job on the glass,” Painter said. “Seemed like every time they got an offensive rebound they made us pay and every time we turned it over they were so fast in transition of going the other way and converting. Hats off to them. They played a great game.”

Reply

Getting to know: Purdue

The Purdue Boilermakers come together at half court after a practice on Wednesday prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The Purdue Boilermakers come together at half court after a practice on Wednesday prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

Back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010, Purdue’s basketball team has its eyes set on improving on one of the best seasons in school history.

The Boilermakers, known for all of their size, will tip off against top-seeded Kansas around 8:40 p.m. Thursday (CBS) at Kansas City’s Sprint Center.

Purdue, which won an outright Big Ten title, ranks sixth nationally in 3-point shooting (40 percent) and eighth in defensive rebounding.

“We have confident players,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “We have some guys that can really shoot the basketball.”

Interesting note: Last weekend in Milwaukee, Purdue scored 80 points in back-to-back tournament games for the first time since 1998.

Series history: Kansas leads 3-2. The last three meetings have been in the NCAA Tournament, including KU’s 63-60 win in the second round of the 2012 tourney.

Vegas says: Kansas by 5.

PURDUE STARTERS

No. 11 — G P.J. Thompson | 5-10, 185, jr.

Purdue's P.J. Thompson (11) drives against Iowa State's Donovan Jackson (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

Purdue's P.J. Thompson (11) drives against Iowa State's Donovan Jackson (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

  • Known for his defense and reliability with the ball, Thompson is averaging 7.2 points and 3.0 assists per game. He ranks second on the team with 33 steals.

  • Thompson is second in the nation with a 4.25 assist-to-turnover ratio. In the last two seasons combined, he’s committed 47 turnovers in 1,763 minutes.

  • The Indianapolis native is shooting 40 percent from behind the 3-point line and is connecting on 70.5 percent of his free throws. He was a 29-percent 3-point shooter during his freshman year.

  • His father, LaSalle, played basketball at Indiana State and Ball State before playing several years overseas.

  • QUOTE: "We want him to be aggressive," Painter said. "We want him to look for his shot, drive the basketball and still take care of it. That’s what you want from your point guard…. He’s a steady hand. He gets us where we need to go on offense, but he also needs to hit that 3."

No. 31 — G Dakota Mathias | 6-4, 200, jr.

Purdue's Dakota Mathias (31) celebrates with his teammates during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game against Iowa State Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

Purdue's Dakota Mathias (31) celebrates with his teammates during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game against Iowa State Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

  • Purdue’s top 3-point shooter, Mathias has drained 45.8 percent of shots from deep, averaging 9.9 points. According to hoop-math.com, he only attempts 10.5 percent of his shots around the rim.

  • Averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.71 assists per game, Mathias has scored 12 or more points in four of the last seven games.

  • Mathias posed for a picture during Wednesday’s practice with Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. Mathias says Miller is one of the reasons that he wears the No. 31 jersey.

  • Pronunciation: muh-thigh-us. The Elida, Ohio native played through ankle injuries, mononucleosis and vertigo during his freshman season.

  • QUOTE: “Dakota’s been great,” Painter says. “Where he’s improved the most is defensively. As a coach, you can’t have enough people you trust. A lot of times, players don’t understand that. Can the coaches trust you? Can you follow your assignment? Just be accountable. He’s gotten better. There were some tough lessons.”

No. 14 — G Ryan Cline | 6-6, 195, soph.

Iowa State's Matt Thomas (21) drives against Purdue's Ryan Cline (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

Iowa State's Matt Thomas (21) drives against Purdue's Ryan Cline (14) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball tournament second-round game Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Milwaukee.

  • Averaging 5.3 points and 2.0 rebounds per game, Cline is almost exclusively a 3-point shooter. He’s connected on 41 percent of his shots from behind the arc.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Cline has attempted a minuscule 3.1 percent of his shots at the rim. Of his 130 shot attempts this season, 106 are from behind the 3-point line.

  • He was suspended for the first three games of the season after being charged with possession of marijuana during the offseason.

  • His father, Michael, played basketball at Ohio State from 1976-79 and was a team captain for two seasons.

  • QUOTE: "My awareness and my positioning has always been pretty good, especially coming from Carmel and coach (Scott) Heady," Cline said. "Being able to move laterally and be able to contain my man has gone really well."

No. 12 — F Vincent Edwards | 6-8, 225, jr.

Purdue forward Vince Edwards (12) pulls up for a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Purdue forward Vince Edwards (12) pulls up for a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • Averaging 12.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game on 49 percent shooting, which includes a 42.5 percent clip from behind the 3-point line. He makes 82 percent of his free throws.

  • A strong passer out of the 4-man position, Edwards actually ranks second on the team with 110 assists this season (3.2 per game).

  • On a tear at the end of the season, Edwards has scored 21 points in both of the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He’s shooting 19-of-30 from the floor and 2-of-6 from deep.

  • His dad, Bill, starred at Wright State before playing overseas. Both of his older brothers played college basketball. Bill Jr. played at Penn State and Darius was at Miami of Ohio.

  • QUOTE: “I’m just playing hard,” Edwards said. “I’m just going hard. I think that’s one thing that’s changed for me is I’ve just been focused on playing hard because if I’m playing hard, everything else takes care of itself. When I get my motor going, I’m able to get myself going, offensive rebounding really helps me out.

No. 50 — F Caleb Swanigan | 6-9, 250, soph.

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) pulls up for a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Purdue forward Caleb Swanigan (50) pulls up for a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • A national player of the year candidate, Swanigan is tied for third in single-season NCAA history with 28 double-doubles this season. He’s averaging 18.5 points and 12.6 rebounds.

  • Swanigan is shooting 52.7 percent from the field, including a 43.2 percent mark from behind the 3-point line. He’s third on the team with 103 assists and leads with 28 blocked shots. According to hoop-math.com, he’s converting on 79.2 percent of his shot around the rim.

  • He declared for the NBA Draft last season, but withdrew after less-than-positive reviews from scouts. He originally committed to Michigan State in high school, but said he switched to Purdue because he wanted to play power forward instead of center.

  • ESPN wrote a feature on Swanigan’s childhood, who stayed at homeless shelters before being adopted by sports agent Roosevelt Barnes, a former Purdue football standout. Nicknamed “Biggie” by his aunt after rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s hit song “Hypnotize.”

  • QUOTE: “When he steps on the court, he knows without a shadow of a doubt, ‘There is not one dude out here that works harder than me. I’ve earned the right to go put up 20 and 20,’” said Josh Bonhotal, Purdue’s strength and conditioning coach.

PURDUE BENCH

No. 44 — C Isaac Haas | 7-2, 290, jr.

Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) hooks in a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.

Purdue center Isaac Haas (44) hooks in a shot during a day of practices and press conferences prior to Thursday's game at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. by Nick Krug

  • From Hokes Bluff, Ala. (pop. 4,286), Haas is averaging 12.6 points and 5.1 rebounds off of the bench. He’s shooting 58 percent from the floor.

  • During the NCAA Tournament, Haas is averaging 11 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.5 minutes per game.

  • Haas ranks sixth in minutes on Purdue’s roster but he’s second in free throws attempted, a credit to his ability to draw fouls. He’s a 71.3 percent shooter at the charity stripe.

  • His younger sister, Erin, has epilepsy, “My sole purpose, honestly, is to help Erin have the best life she possibly can,” he said in a feature from ESPN. He originally committed Wake Forest (before Danny Manning), switching at the end because of Painter’s reputation developing bigs. He wears size 22 shoes.

  • QUOTE: “I’ve done a better job growing into my body and understanding my body, the conditioning needs, the rebounding and physical aspects you have to go into detail with as a big guy,’’ he said. “It’s like coach always says, you don’t put regular gas in a Lamborghini. You have to use premium. It’s about the right time and work.”

No. 3 — Carsen Edwards | 6-0, 190, fr.

  • Averaging 10.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on 39 percent shooting from the floor.

  • The Atascocita, Texas native combined for 21 points in 39 minutes during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He has 354 points on the season, the seventh-most for a Purdue freshman in school history.

  • A pesky defender, Edwards leads the Boilermakers with 35 steals.

  • His brother, Jai, plays football at Blinn Junior College.

  • QUOTE: “I’m just trying to do my job, honestly,” Edwards said. “I’m just trying to improve on doing my job more and more every game and eliminating mistakes. I’m just going to continue to watch film and seeing what I need to continue to keep working on.”

No. 55 — G Spike Albrecht | 6-0, 180, r-sr.

  • A graduate transfer from Michigan, well known for his 17-point performance in the 2013 NCAA title game (and his post-game tweet to supermodel Kate Upton), Albrecht is averaging 1.7 points and 1.5 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game off of the bench.

  • In the NCAA Tournament, he hasn’t attempted a shot in 20 minutes, dishing two assists. He shot 6-for-25 from the 3-point line (24 percent) throughout the season.

  • He only appeared in eight games for Michigan last season before missing the rest of the season to rehab from double hip surgeries. He suffered from a painful genetic condition, diagnosed as a hip impingement. He played his junior season at Michigan through a torn labrum.

  • First name is Michael. Nicknamed Spike after he wore his baseball spikes everywhere when he was 8 years old.

  • QUOTE: “Having this opportunity to come back and play again, I may not have had the best year for me individually, but I’ve been a part of a team that’s had a lot of success with a great group of guys,” Albrecht told USA Today. “It’s everything I was looking for in a fifth year.”


More news and notes previewing Kansas vs. Purdue


Reply

Landen Lucas on facing Purdue’s height: ‘We match up fine’

Michigan State guard Alvin Ellis III (3) loses the ball while defended by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Michigan State guard Alvin Ellis III (3) loses the ball while defended by Kansas forward Landen Lucas (33) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

There’s no secret when it comes to Purdue’s style of play. There’s plenty of height and the Boilermakers like to make the most of it.

Purdue, which will face No. 1 seed Kansas in the Sweet 16 on Thursday at Sprint Center (8:40 p.m., CBS), is led by Big Ten player of the year Caleb Swanigan, a 6-foot-9, 250-pound presence in the post. He’s surrounded by 6-8 forward Vincent Edwards and 7-2 center Isaac Haas.

Swanigan is more than your prototypical center. He fights for every inch in the paint and he’s capable of drilling shots from the outside, connecting on 43 percent of his 3-pointers this season. He’s even a 78.5 percent shooter at the free-throw line.

But facing talented post players is nothing new for the Jayhawks, and they are confident it won’t be as big of a mismatch as it looks when they stand next to each other.

“I think we match up fine,” Kansas senior center Landen Lucas said. “We have played big teams before in our league. We play big teams all year. So it is nothing new for us and we are looking forward to the challenge.”

The Jayhawks will try to combat Purdue’s height advantage with their versatility in the post featuring the 6-10 Lucas and 6-8 Josh Jackson, with 6-10 Carlton Bragg and 6-9 Dwight Coleby off of the bench.

Swanigan, Edwards and Haas all average more than 12 points and five rebounds per game, and the trio combined for 55 points, 25 rebounds and 11 assists in Saturday’s 80-76 win over Iowa State.

The Jayhawks watched most of that game waiting for their own matchup against Michigan State’s star freshmen forwards on the following day.

“I was really impressed because, when you think of it right now going into it, I mean, they've got some guys that we haven't seen down low yet,” KU coach Bill Self said. “We haven't gone against an inside presence scoring like Caleb and of course the big fellow off the bench. We recruited him, and he's a load.”

Along with a strong frontcourt, the Boilermakers (27-7) are smart with the ball. They rank second in the country in assists per game (18.3) only trailing UCLA.

In their win over Iowa State, they had an incredible 27 assists on 31 made baskets — “There's nobody that would execute in the half-court or share the ball any better than that,” Self said.

Junior point guard P.J. Thompson ranks second in the nation with a 4.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, only behind Monte Morris, who he matched up against Saturday.

“We’ve got to come up with a way to eliminate post touches and still get to their shooters because they can stretch it from all the spots to the perimeter,” Self said.

The Boilermakers didn’t know if they’d be playing Kansas or Michigan State after Friday’s win, but they knew there was a chance they would be entering a tough environment in Kansas City, Mo.

Playing at the Sprint Center should give the Jayhawks as close to a home-court advantage as possible in the NCAA Tournament, and the Boilermakers will do their best to use it to motivate themselves.


"We enjoy playing on the road," Purdue guard Dakota Mathias told the Lafayette Journal & Courier. "We like all the boos and the hatred coming towards us. We've won in a lot of hostile environments, a lot of big-time places, so this isn't going to be any different.”

Haas added: "You draw energy from that. That’s what makes basketball fun. I look forward to stepping on that court and hopefully making them silent.”

Reply 3 comments from Michael Dennis Craig Alexander Humpy Helsel

Friendly Fire: Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges enjoy matchup against each other

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) puts up a three over Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) puts up a three over Kansas guard Josh Jackson (11) during the first half on Sunday, March 19, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — Matched up against each other for the majority of Sunday’s second-round game at BOK Center, Josh Jackson and Miles Bridges enjoyed the opportunity to play each other on college basketball’s biggest stage.

Kansas freshman Jackson had the upper hand over one of his good friends, scoring a game-high 23 points on 9-of-16 shooting in KU’s 90-70 win against Michigan State to advance to the Sweet 16. He added three rebounds and two blocks in 36 minutes.

Bridges led the Spartans with 22 points and eight rebounds on 7-of-15 shooting in 34 minutes. He briefly went to the locker room in the first half with a hip pointer.

The sight of Jackson and Bridges dominating in a game was nothing new to MSU coach Tom Izzo, who noted he saw it plenty while recruiting both of them.

“I give all the credit in the world to Josh. I thought he's improved his jump shot a lot,” Izzo said. “And he does play hard, but I look at the stats and I look at the game and I think about the injury and the time he missed, I'm really, really proud of Miles. And you know what, I'm proud of Josh.”


Jackson scored 14 points in the second half and put the finishing touches on KU’s victory with a right-handed slam down the lane in the final minutes for a 15-point lead.

Before facing Bridges and childhood friend Cassius Winston (seven points, eight assists), Jackson said Kansas coaches told him not to be too amped up when the game started.

“I came out and was still just a little too excited. I tried to force stuff a little bit,” Jackson said. “But as the game went on, I felt like the game started slowing down, it came to me a little bit more. And I just had to realize it was just another game, and it was about Kansas basketball versus Michigan State, and it wasn't about me versus Miles.”

In his first — and likely only — NCAA Tournament, Jackson is averaging 20 points and five rebounds on 17-of-28 shooting (61 percent).

Both Jackson and Bridges, potential lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft, played with and against each other since the sixth grade in AAU games. Jackson grew up in Detroit, Bridges in Flint, Mich.

“I knew it was going to be a fun game before it even started,” Jackson said. “So it was just really fun to be able to go out there and play against those guys and really proud to see them here and having success.”

Bridges, the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year, opened the game with a 3-pointer over Jackson and backed up some of his trash-talking with strong play in the post.

“It's always good playing against Josh,” Bridges said. “It gets a little physical at times. We compete every time we play against each other. He's a great player. He's going to have huge success in the league, so it's always good playing against him.”

For fans, it was an opportunity to see an NBA preview, where both players could have big roles for the next decade.

But Sunday, the main focus for each player was just trying to find a way to win and keep his season alive.

“Two great players going at it,” Izzo said. “The stats were somewhat the same, but I think Josh has really played well. He's really come on."

Reply 3 comments from Koolkeithfreeze Surrealku Jim Stauffer

Jayhawks try to prepare for Michigan State’s talented big men

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — Earlier this season, the Kansas basketball team had trouble with its interior defense against talented big men.

There were the standout games from Reid Travis, Jarrett Allen, Vlad Brodizansky, and a couple of other opponents in the first half of the year.

Heading into the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Michigan State on Sunday (4:15 p.m., CBS), the Jayhawks will attempt to slow down freshmen forwards Miles Bridges and Nick Ward.

Bridges, 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, is a potential lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, averaging a team-best 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He’s scored at least 15 points in seven straight games.

“He's an unbelievable athlete, but he's got unbelievable feel,” Kansas coach Bill Self said of Bridges. “I mean just making the extra pass or just knowing when to cut. And they play through him a lot. They play through him probably about as much as they play through well, I guess Denzel (Valentine) last year, but they put the ball in his hands a lot to make decisions.”

Kansas freshman Josh Jackson will likely draw the primary defensive assignment against Bridges, a good friend of his, which would match senior center Landen Lucas versus the 6-8, 250-pound Ward (13.9 points, 6.6 rebounds per game).

Of course, KU’s team defense will rely on more than one-on-one match-ups in the post. Guards are expected to do their part to help through help defense and ball pressure.

“I think the toughest part is you can tell guys what to do, but when you play against good guys that are hard to handle, the execution isn't always what you tell (them),” Self said. “It's hard to simulate athletic ability.”

Adding a wrinkle to the difficulty of preparing for Bridges and Ward is the one-day turnaround in the second game of the tournament’s weekend.

It goes both ways for all teams, but it doesn’t make it any easier to stop two of the top freshmen in the Big Ten.

“They run so many plays and got so many sets that one day of preparation, you really can't get a good feel for all the stuff they run or try to memorize a lot of their plays,” KU junior guard Devonte’ Graham said. “But we just had practice and we just went over the scouting report kind of in depth and we'll go back to the hotel and do the same thing. So it's just trying to get a good feel for a lot of the sets that they run.”

Reply 1 comment from Andy Godwin

Getting to know: Michigan State

Michigan State guards Miles Bridges, second from left, Alvin Ellis III and Lourawls Nairn Jr. are escorted to interviews on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla.

Michigan State guards Miles Bridges, second from left, Alvin Ellis III and Lourawls Nairn Jr. are escorted to interviews on Saturday, March 18, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla. by Nick Krug

It’s not the typical Michigan State team that Tom Izzo has coached into the NCAA Tournament, featuring one of the youngest teams in the country that’s suffered a few injuries.

But the main philosophies remain the same heading into Sunday's second-round matchup against No. 1 seed Kansas (4:15 p.m., CBS). The Spartans (20-14) have out-rebounded their last 11 opponents and, like always, there’s some talented big men and reliable guards.

“One thing about youth, you win a game and there is an excitement, there’s an enthusiasm,” Izzo said. “There’s a new feeling. And that’s helped me even — you know, when you win a decent amount of games in this tournament like we have over the years, it’s just, I won’t say it’s ho-hum, but it gets to be.

“There was nothing ho-hum about yesterday for me or for them, and that’ll, I hope, propel us into playing well (Sunday) against a good team.”


The Spartans, who own a 13-1 record in the second round of the tournament under Izzo, are without seniors Eron Harris, Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling after all of them sustained knee injuries.

Interesting note: Under Tom Izzo, Michigan State owns a 21-4 record in the second game of an NCAA Tournament weekend, including a 7-3 mark as the lower seeded team.

Series history: Michigan State leads 7-5. The Spartans have won three of the last four meetings, last coming in November 2015 at the Champions Classic.

Vegas says: Kansas by 8.

MICHIGAN STATE STARTERS

No. 11 — G Tum Tum Nairn Jr. | 5-10, 175, jr.

Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Lourawls Nairn Jr. (11) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • One of the fastest guards in the Big Ten, Nairn was scoreless in 18 minutes against Miami. He dished five assists with two turnovers and shot 0-for-2 from the floor.

  • Throughout the season, Nairn is averaging 3.6 points and 3.7 assists per game. He ranked second in the Big Ten with a 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • He’s played in seven NCAA Tournament games, including starting five during Michigan State’s run to the Final Four in 2015. He leads all MSU players with 63 career starts.

  • His first name is Lourawls. Nicknamed “Tum Tum” after a character in the 1992 movie “3 Ninjas.” He moved from the Bahamas when he was 13.

  • QUOTE: “He has the ability to control tempo, and we’d like the tempo to be high,” Izzo said. “Tum brings that.”

No. 3 — G Alvin Ellis III | 6-4, 210, sr.

  • Started the last seven games after senior Eron Harris suffered a season-ending injury. In 30 minutes against Miami, Ellis had seven points and seven rebounds on 3-of-9 shooting. He missed all five of his attempts from behind the 3-point arc.

  • Averaging 6.6 points and 3.1 rebounds in 19.4 minutes per game. He’s shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line and he ranks second on the team in steals (21).

  • The Chicago native was a co-recipient of Michigan State’s Most Improved Player Award. He’s scored more points this season (223) than his first three years combined.

  • Ellis originally committed to Minnesota, but was let out of his letter of intent when former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith was fired.

  • QUOTE: “He’s not gentle with anybody,” Ellis said Izzo. “He’s always gonna get on you, but it’s all teaching and you just got to take in the spirit it’s given and learn from it. We know he’s trying to better us, better the team and put us in a position where we can win games or be successful in our own lives.”

No. 1 — G Joshua Langford | 6-5, 210, fr.

Michigan State guard Joshua Langford (1) looks to throw  pass around Miami guard Bruce Brown (11) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Joshua Langford (1) looks to throw pass around Miami guard Bruce Brown (11) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • The McDonald’s All-American scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first round against Miami, including 2-of-4 from deep. He added two rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes. The Spartans are 7-0 when he scores in double figures.

  • One of the most efficient 3-pointer shooters in the Big Ten, Langford averaged 6.8 points and 2.3 rebounds throughout the season. He’s connected on 35 of 84 threes (41.7 percent).

  • He’s averaging 9.4 points in his last 10 games, which includes a career-high 17-point outing against Nebraska in February. He’s made at least one 3-pointer in seven straight games.

  • The Huntsville, Ala., native delivered sermon at his church on every third Sunday. He survived a bout with bacterial meningitis at 12 years old.

  • QUOTE: “It was everything I imagined it would be and then some,” said Langford of the NCAA Tournament. “Just a blessing to be able to be on this high-level stage and be a part of it.”

No. 22 — F Miles Bridges | 6-7, 230, fr.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • In his tournament debut, Bridges was dominant with 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot in a team-high 35 minutes. He shot 8-of-12 from the floor, and made 2 of 4 3-pointers.

  • The Big Ten’s Freshman of the Year is averaging 16.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, ranking seventh in the Big Ten in points and fifth in rebounding. His points per game average is the most by a MSU freshman since Magic Johnson.

  • The Flint, Mich., native leads the Spartans in made threes (54) as a 39 percent shooter from deep. He’s second on the team in blocks (43) and third in steals (18).

  • Draft Express has Bridges, a likely one-and-done prospect, going 12th in the upcoming NBA Draft. He features a team-best 42 inch vertical leap. Bridges missed seven games earlier this season with an ankle injury.

  • QUOTE: “Sometimes you need a jerk,” Izzo said. “That’s what I’m hoping Miles will turn into a little bit. That’s the area I’d like to see him grow and be a little more demanding of those things. Because once they get out on that court, we (the coaches) really are invisible.”

No. 44 — F Nick Ward | 6-8, 250, fr.

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State forward Nick Ward (44) gets a bucket against Miami during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • A lefty who’s drawn some comparisons to Zach Randolph, Ward scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting against Miami in the first round of the tournament. He added seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 26 minutes.

  • Ward earned an all-Big Ten honorable mention after 13.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. He’s snagged 95 offensive boards and leads the team with 53 blocks. He’s scored in double figures in 24 of the team’s last 28 games.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Ward has converted on 73 percent of his shots around the rim. The freshman with a 7-3 wingspan is shooting 59 percent from the floor, which ranked third in the Big Ten.

  • His dad, Jeff, played at Tiffin University in Ohio and was the program’s all-time leader in points (2,532), rebounds (1,212) and blocks (226).

  • QUOTE: “He was pretty lazy at the beginning of the season,” associate head coach Dwayne Stephens said. “He still has his moments where he still takes plays off, but the biggest thing is he’s running the floor well. He’s posting hard. He’s playing with a little more energy and he’s been pretty good on the ball screens. That was one of the things he really needed to improve at, and I think he’s done that.”

MICHIGAN STATE BENCH

No. 20 — G Matt McQuaid | 6-4, 200, soph.

Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) drives to th bucket during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Matt McQuaid (20) drives to th bucket during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

  • Off of the bench against Miami, McQuaid had seven points (2-of-4 shooting) with five rebounds, three assists and three turnovers in 25 minutes.

  • Known as one of the team’s top defenders and 3-point shooters, McQuaid is averaging 5.5 points and 1.9 rebounds on 34.5 percent shooting from deep. According to hoop-math.com, McQuaid takes a team-low 11.5 percent of his shots at the rim.

  • His sister, Andrea, played volleyball professionally in Europe. His dad, Rob, played basketball at Central Michigan and Midwestern State.

No. 5 — G Cassius Winston | 6-0, 185, fr.

  • Kansas coach Bill Self called him “one of the best passers in college basketball.” Against Miami, he had seven points and five assists without a turnover in 22 minutes. Miami coach Jim Larranaga compared him to Steve Nash.

  • Playing mostly off of the bench because of his defense, Winston was second in the Big Ten with 5.1 assists per game and his 2.4 assist-to-turnover ratio was tied for fourth in the conference. His 174 assists in the season are second-most by a freshman, only trailing Magic Johnson.

  • A childhood friend of Kansas freshman Josh Jackson, Winston graduated magna cum laude from University of Detroit Jesuit and was accepted at Harvard.

No. 25 — F Kenny Goins | 6-6, 230, r-soph.

Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) gets up to defend against a shot by Miami center Ebuka Izundu (15) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0).

Michigan State forward Kenny Goins (25) gets up to defend against a shot by Miami center Ebuka Izundu (15) during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. At right is Miami guard Ja'Quan Newton (0). by Nick Krug

  • A former walk-on, Goins scored six points with two rebounds and two turnovers in 12 minutes against Miami in the first round.

  • Goins ranks third on the team with 4.6 rebounds per game and 21 blocks this season. He’s averaging 3.3. points on 57.5 percent shooting (46 of 80).

  • From Troy, Mich., Goins grew up a Michigan State fan and tailgated at football game since he was 6 years old. He attended the 2014 Rose Bowl during his senior year of high school.

No. 0 — G/F Kyle Ahrens | 6-5, 215, soph.

  • Played five minutes against Miami in the first round and didn’t record any statistics.

  • Ahrens is averaging 2.6 points and 1.2 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game. He’s shooting 15 of 45 from the 3-point line (33 percent).

  • He’s only played double-digit minutes in two of the last 18 games.

Reply

Michigan State’s Tom Izzo: I think Kansas is a helluva team

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State guard Miles Bridges (22) pushes the ball up the court during the second half on Friday, March 17, 2017 at BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Tulsa, Okla. — A few minutes after Michigan State put the final touches on a 78-58 victory over Miami in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, MSU coach Tom Izzo was asked about his thoughts of Kansas.

Izzo saw bits and pieces of KU’s first-round win over UC Davis, waiting for his team to take the court afterward.

“I only saw a little bit of them tonight, thank God,” Izzo said. “I saw the good part when they were only up four with eight minutes left and then they burned UC Davis. But they got a good team, veteran team. They got all those seniors, juniors and Josh (Jackson) is a heck of a player.”

During the regular season, Michigan State posted a 7-9 record against teams in the NCAA Tournament, which included non-conference losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke.

Facing three teams that were ranked No. 1 at some point during the season, the Spartans should be comfortable preparing to play top competition.

“I think Kansas is a helluva team, and I think (Frank) Mason is an exceptional guard,” Izzo said. “I thought Josh is playing at a very high level. But we've played a lot of big teams all year. Maybe we can use this again, and yet, they're kind of playing in their own backyard. It's going to be fun.”

MSU guard Tum Tum Nairn added: “They are a really, really great team. They are a well-coached team. It is going to be a tough game and we look forward to it.” 

The ninth-seeded Spartans (20-14) certainly have shown their youth and inexperience at times this season, plus they’ve dealt with season-ending injury to senior guard Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer.

But most of those problems disappeared during their 20-point victory over Miami. Freshmen Nick Ward and Miles Bridges combined for 37 points and 16 rebounds.

“We get to work again,” Izzo said. “I told my guys all I want to do is work another night and get a chance to go against one of the top teams.”

Reply

UC Davis guard enjoys chance to face KU walk-on Clay Young, favorite childhood team

Tulsa, Okla. — When UC Davis sophomore guard Siler Schneider saw the NCAA bracket unveiled Sunday, one of his first calls was to Kansas walk-on Clay Young.

Schneider and Young were teammates at Lansing (Kan.) High, leading the Lions to the Class 5A state championship game.

The former teammates were excited about the opportunity to play against each other — and it became a reality when UC Davis secured a four-point victory over North Carolina Central in the First Four on Wednesday.

Young, who transferred to KU from Kansas City Kansas Community College, will likely look on with pride when he sees his former teammate Schneider on the court during Friday’s game at 5:50 p.m. (TNT) at BOK Center.

“Clay has been one of my best friends since first or second grade,” Schneider said. “We’ve played together for a long time. I just Face-Timed him right when we found out we were playing each other. It’s exciting.

“He had like a mini basketball hoop in the attic of his house and we’d always play up there. Just a lot of memories with Clay. We grew up together and we formed our love of basketball together.”

Schneider, named the Big West’s Sixth Man of the Year, ranks third on the team with 10.3 points per game.

The 6-foot-3, 183-pound guard shoots 40 percent from the floor, including .346 from the 3-point line. Schneider went by the first name Joe in high school, but switched to his birth name during college.

Prior to UC Davis, Schneider attended the Air Force Academy Prep School.

“When I first went out there, my roommate, his name was Joe Mooney,” Schneider said of his name change. “I just thought it’d be a good time to go back to my original name, Siler. It’s been good. It stuck and it’s a unique name.”

Starring at Lansing, Schneider led his school to an undefeated state championship in 2015. He averaged 17 points and five assists in his final season and received the DiRenna Award, which is given to the best player in the Kansas City metro area.

For Schneider, playing against the Jayhawks is a dream come true. His parents and older brother attended Kansas State, but Schneider grew up going to games at Allen Fieldhouse and cheering on the Jayhawks.

With extra family and friends in attendance in Tulsa, Schneider hopes to make the most of his NCAA Tournament experience.

“They are the best team in the country so it’s not going to be easy, by any means,” Schneider said. “We’ve just got to play our best game of basketball and defend and hopefully good things happen.... Just have fun and enjoy the moment. Just hope for the best.”

Reply

Getting to know: UC Davis basketball

UC Davis head coach Jim Les fires up his players as he prepares to cut the net after his team's 50-47 win against UC Irvine in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Big West tournament Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

UC Davis head coach Jim Les fires up his players as he prepares to cut the net after his team's 50-47 win against UC Irvine in an NCAA college basketball game for the championship of the Big West tournament Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

It took a few extra days, but the Kansas basketball team finally learned of its first-round opponent in the NCAA Tournament: UC Davis.

The Big West champions advanced to the 64-team bracket with a 67-63 victory over N.C Central in their First Four matchup Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio.

“I think our guys are great about, as we prepare for a team, respecting all of our opponents,” UC Davis coach Jim Les said. “And we'll do that. But we also like our competitiveness, and feel like in a one-game situation, we're going to come, we're going to play hard, we're going to compete and let the chips fall where they may. So we're excited for this opportunity. And we'll concede nothing. But we'll be ready.”

Les coached Bradley, his alma mater, to an upset victory in 2006, propelling the Braves to a Sweet 16 run.

“When that ball goes up on Friday, I'm not going to be thinking about what seeds — we're going to be playing basketball, competing at basketball,” Les said. “And, like I said, the chips will fall where they may. But we're glad to be here, but we're not satisfied by any means.”

Interesting note: The Aggies feature two Kansas natives on their roster: senior Georgi Funtarov and sophomore Siler Schneider. Funtarov, from Bulgaria, played at Lawrence Free State and Lawrence-Bishop Seabury in high school. Schneider starred for Lansing.

Series history: It’s the first meeting between the two schools. In the NCAA Tournament, No. 1 seeds own an 128-0 record against No. 16 seeds.

UC DAVIS STARTERS

No. 2 — G Darius Graham | 5-10, 180, sr.

UC Davis' Darius Graham (2) looks to pass against North Carolina Central's Rashaun Madison (3) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

UC Davis' Darius Graham (2) looks to pass against North Carolina Central's Rashaun Madison (3) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

  • Started all 34 games, averaging 7.5 points and a team-best 3.2 assists per game. Graham boasts a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.

  • With more than half of his shots from behind the 3-point arc, Graham shooting 38 percent from deep. He’s a 41 percent shooter from the field and makes 76.4 percent of his free throws.

  • Known as a relentless defender with plenty of speed and quickness, Graham has snagged 19 steals in 34 games.

  • Before every game he kisses his hands, touches his shoes where his grandfather's name is and points up to the sky.

  • QUOTE: “I told my dad before the season that this was going to be a special year,” Graham said. “On Father’s Day, I wrote him a letter, telling him I was dedicating the season to him and I wanted to do as well as I could to honor him.”

No. 0 — G Brynton Lemar | 6-4, 195, sr.

UC Davis' Brynton Lemar (0) celebrates after the team's First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament against North Carolina Central, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

UC Davis' Brynton Lemar (0) celebrates after the team's First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament against North Carolina Central, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

  • A first-team All-Big West selection, Lemar led the Aggies by averaging 16 points on 42 percent shooting, adding 3.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He ranked third in the conference in scoring.

  • UC Davis’ top 3-point threat, Lemar is shooting 38 percent from deep, taking more than half of his shots from the outsdie. He’s a 76 percent free-throw shooter.

  • Pronunciation: BRIN-ton LUH-mar. Lemar became the 22nd player in school history to pass the 1,000 point milestone. The San Diego native helped his high school, St. Augustine, to a CIF Div. III state title in 2013.

  • His father, Earl, was a member of Jamaica’s national water polo team in high school. But a lack of funding didn’t allow the team to compete in international competition.

  • QUOTE: “Brynton is not going to wow you with high-flying dunks, but after every game, just look at his stat line,” Les said. “He does a little bit of everything.”

No. 1 — G Lawrence White | 6-4, 203, sr.

UC Davis' Lawrence White (1) celebrates after a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis defeated North Carolina Central 67-63.

UC Davis' Lawrence White (1) celebrates after a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis defeated North Carolina Central 67-63.

  • A transfer from Antelope Valley College, White is averaging 7.6 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.

  • White leads the Aggies with 34 steals this season. He ranks second with 26 blocks.

  • According to hoop-math.com, White is one of the team’s best finishers around the rim. He’s converted on 61 percent of his layups/dunks, which has helped him shoot 43 percent from the field.

  • Helped Antelope CC to a Western State Conference South title — the first championship of any kind captured by the program in six years.

  • QUOTE: “We want to be aggressive using that athleticism defensively,” Les said. “That defense gets us out in the open floor where (Chima Moneke and White) can make some spectacular plays.”

No. 11 — F Chima Moneke | 6-6, 223, jr.

UC Davis' Chima Moneke (11) shoots against North Carolina Central's Pablo Rivas (13) and Kyle Benton (25) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

UC Davis' Chima Moneke (11) shoots against North Carolina Central's Pablo Rivas (13) and Kyle Benton (25) during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

  • The Big West’s Newcomer of the Year, a Northeast CC transfer, averages 14.4 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. He leads the team with 50 blocked shots. He was named first-team all-Big West, the only non-senior to receive that honor.

  • Moneke, a Nigeria native, plays with goggles because he’s nearsighted and hates wearing contacts.

  • He shoots 52 percent from the floor and 64 percent at the free-throw line.

  • Pronunciation: CHEE-muh Moe-neck-E. His full name takes up extra lines on his driver’s license: Nwachukwu Ikeukwumere Chima Moneke. His parents are Nigerian diplomats and he’s lived in Australia, Turkey, Switzerland, France and England.

  • QUOTE: “Sometimes other players will look at me when we walk out on the court and just start laughing,” Chima Moneke said of his goggles. “One guy in the stands kept yelling at me, ‘Hey, four eyes!’ So I was like, ‘OK, watch this.’ I made some big plays, and every time I did, I just stared at him. He was giving me the thumbs-up by the end of the game. It made me laugh.”

No. 13 — F J.T. Adenrele | 6-7, 235, sr.

  • He missed two seasons, including all of last year, with ACL tears to each knee.

  • Adenrele, a Roseville, Calif., native, averages 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game.

  • According to hoop-math.com, Adenrele shoots 60 percent of his shots around the rim for layups/dunks. He’s made 54 percent of those shots.

  • Pronunciation: UH-den-RUH-lay. His parents are from Nigeria.

  • QUOTE: “He just finds a knack in games to make plays that are game-changing plays,” Les said. “The stats don’t tell the story but, if you watch him and watch him in crunch time, he’s invaluable to this team and a big reason why we are where we are.”

UC DAVIS BENCH

No. 5 — G Siler Schneider | 6-3, 183, soph.

  • The Big West’s Sixth Man of the Year, Schneider averages 10.5 points off of the bench in 23.4 minutes per game. He received a Big West honorable mention postseason honor.

  • Schneider, from Lansing, Kan., shoots 35 percent from deep and 40 percent from the field. He won a Kansas state title in 2014.

  • Spent the 2014-15 season at the Air Force Academy Prep School before committing to UC Davis.

No. 44 — F Garrison Goode | 6-7, 225, soph.

North Carolina Central's Pablo Rivas, center, and UC Davis' Garrison Goode, left, scramble for a wild ball during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

North Carolina Central's Pablo Rivas, center, and UC Davis' Garrison Goode, left, scramble for a wild ball during the second half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. UC Davis won 67-63.

  • Known for his defense and rebounding, Goode grabs 3.9 rebounds in 21.5 minutes off of the bench, ranking third on the team with 37 offensive boards. He averages 2.5 points.

  • Against N.C. Central in the First Four on Wednesday, Goode grabbed four rebounds and scored four points.

  • His father, Andre, played basketball at Northwestern. His older sister, Krystalyn, played volleyball at Michigan, helping the Wolverines to the Final Four during her freshman season.

No. 4 — G Arell Hennings | 5-8, 150, jr.

North Carolina Central's Rashaun Madison (3) defends against UC Davis' Arell Hennings (4) during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

North Carolina Central's Rashaun Madison (3) defends against UC Davis' Arell Hennings (4) during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament, Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

  • The Seattle native has averaged 1.9 points and 1.0 assists in 8.3 minutes per game.

  • In the First Four on Wednesday, Hennings played four minutes with one rebound, one assist and two turnovers against N.C. Central.

  • Transferred from Cochise College. He averaged 12 points and seven rebounds per game, helping his team to a NJCAA title.

No. 24 — F Mikey Henn | 6-8, 230, fr.

  • Averaging 4.3 points and 1.7 rebounds in 13.3 minutes off of the bench.

  • Scored five points with one rebound and three turnovers against N.C. Central in the First Four matchup Wednesday in 11 minutes.

  • Jerry Vermillio, his great uncle, played basketball at Gonzaga. Cousins Zach Gordon and Ryan McDade also played basketball for Cal Poly and Northern Arizona, respectively.

Reply 2 comments from Mike Kendall Craig Alexander

Malik Newman making the most of his transfer season

Former Kansas head coach Larry Brown talks with red shirt Malik Newman during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center.

Former Kansas head coach Larry Brown talks with red shirt Malik Newman during the second half, Thursday, March 9, 2017 at Sprint Center. by Nick Krug

Malik Newman can’t suit up for the Kansas basketball team this season, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t made an impact elsewhere.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Newman, who is sitting out the season because of NCAA transfer rules, has played well on the scout team in practices. That's given confidence to his teammates and coaches that he will be ready for a big role next year.

In his one season at Mississippi State, Newman averaged 11.3 points per game. He was a 38 percent shooter from the 3-point line and made free throws at a 69 percent clip.

“He’s a terrific talent,” KU coach Bill Self said on his Hawk Talk radio show earlier this week. “He's had a really good year. I think that the transfer year has helped him from a strength standpoint and certainly from a physical standpoint. I do believe that it’d be hard to keep him out of the starting lineup next year, regardless of who’s back.”

The Jayhawks could feature a vastly differently lineup next season if juniors Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk decide to enter the NBA draft. National player of the year Frank Mason III will graduate.

Along with Newman in the backcourt, the Jayhawks will add Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe — he’s eligible to play after the end of the first semester — and incoming freshman guard Marcus Garrett.

Newman will likely make his unofficial KU debut when the Jayhawks travel to Italy in the summer on their latest trip abroad.

Before then, Self would like to add a point guard who can complement Newman’s strengths. Newman only averaged 2.2 assists per game at Mississippi State.

“I don’t really see Malik as a point guard,” Self said. “I see him as a combo guard that can maybe play a little bit of point. But he needs to have a free mind to go score. That’s what he does. That’s naturally what he does. We’ve got to, hopefully, sign another guard so we can even take more advantage of that.”

Throughout his season of sitting out, Newman — the eighth-ranked player in the Class of 2015 by Rivals — has helped the Jayhawks in practice on the “Red” team, which serves as the scout team for the starters.

Self noted that the “Red” team, which features reserves Mitch Lightfoot, Dwight Coleby, the team’s walk-ons and Cunliffe, have lost big in some scrimmage settings but are capable of some surprise wins.

"I think if Malik was eligible now," Self said, "he'd be playing a ton.... There’s no question that Malik’s had a good year."

Reply 8 comments from Dirk Medema Brett McCabe Harlan Hobbs Steve Corder Craig Alexander

Prev

Upload photo Browse photos